The jumps, spins and turns of figure skating
Combining creativity with awe-inspiring skill, Olympic figure skating is mesmerising – and understanding it can seem just as complex. Take your knowledge to the next level with this guide to the figure skating jumps, spins and turns, and spectate like a pro at the next Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022.
There are six figure skating jumps, divided into two categories: toe jumps and edge jumps. These can be attempted as a half, single, double, triple or quadruple rotation.
Toe jumps are executed using the toe pick on the front of the skate. Skaters use this to propel themselves up into the air to perform the move. Find out more about these figure skating jumps and how to spot them below.
Toe loops are the lowest-scoring jump, with a maximum of 10.3 points available. Skaters approach the move backwards, use their toe pick to start the rotation and land on the same foot.
The flip also starts backwards and lands on the same foot. The difference here is that the skater must swap which edge of the blade they land on, from the outside edge to inside edge. The reward is up to 12.3 points.
Finally, the Lutz jump, which was named after Austrian skater Alois Lutz who introduced it in 1913. This is the highest-scoring toe jump with a top score of 13.6 points. To achieve this, the skater needs to approach backwards, take off on one foot and land on the other.
These figure skating jumps are performed without the help of the toe pick. Instead, the skater must take off using just the momentum from their blade. There are three edge jumps to look out for.
The lowest-scoring of the three is called the Salchow, named after Ulrich Salchow who performed the jump in 1909, with a maximum of 10.5 points available. The skater approaches the jump backwards, propels themselves off the ice and lands on the opposite foot.
The loop is much the same, except the skater must land on the same foot. If executed perfectly, they could win 12.0 points for this move.
Last – but by no means least – is the Axel. Arguably the most famous figure skating jump of all and is the epitome of skill on the ice. Introduced by Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen in 1882, skaters face must take off when travelling forwards using the inside edge of the blade. Watch this video to see some of the best triple Axel moves in Olympic history.
Reaching whirlwind speeds of up to 342 rotations per minute (that’s the speed achieved by Guinness world record holder Olivia Oliver from Canada) – figure skating spins are entrancing. There are three basic spins required in Olympic performances, as well as a plethora of non-basic spins that you’ll also see in action.
As the name suggests, a sit spin is when the skater must sink towards the ice in a sitting position. They must hold one leg out parallel to the ice while rotating on their supporting leg.
The camel spin is instantly recognisable. This is when the skater creates a horizontal line using their leg and upper body, which runs parallel to the ice.
Thirdly, an upright spin is defined as any rotation which is performed on one leg when the skater is in an upright position.
There are hundreds of non-basic spins, invented by determined skaters who wanted to impress the judges with exciting arm and leg lines. These are some of the most common spins which you’ll see on the Olympic rink.
The layback spin is a variation of the upright spin. The skater reclines back, creating an elegant arch with their body as they spin on one leg.
A variation on the basic camel spin, the donut spin is another popular move. Instead of creating a long horizontal line with their body, the skater bends backwards and holds the blade of their skate, to create a circular shape like a donut. Watch Yuzuru Hanyu perform the donut spin in his short programme at PyeongChang 2018.
The scratch spin is when athletes pull their arms and legs tightly into their body to create maximum centrifugal force and reach incredible speeds. It’s called the scratch spin because skaters catch their toe picks on the ice during to help steady themselves as they spin.
Invented by Swiss figure skater Denise Biellman, the Biellman spin is when the skater lifts their leg up from behind to extend above their head – all the while spinning at high speeds. Watch Alina Zagitova perform the Biellman spin in her short programme at PyeongChang 2018.
There are six types of figure skating turn, each of which is named after the shape or figure drawn on the ice by the skater’s blade.
Twizzles are a travelling turn on one leg with successive rotations in any number. Watch US duo Meryl Davis and Charlie White twizzle their way to gold at Sochi 2014 in this video.
Performed on one leg, a bracket turn draws a figure which looks like the curly bracket symbol on your keyboard.
Counter turns and rocker turns also draw figures like a curly bracket symbol, but with one half of the bracket pointing in the opposite direction. The difference between counters and rockers is to do with the two edges of the ice skating blade – the counter enters on one edge and exits on another, whereas the rocker maintains the same edge throughout.
To perform a loop turn, skaters must travel forwards on one foot, shifting their weight to create a circular shape. The figure looks like the letter “m” with an additional loop at the central point.
The final figure skating turn is a three turn – so called because the blade draws the number three.
Watch the best figure skaters in action on the Olympic Channel, performing flawless figure skating jumps, spins and turns in their pursuit for glory.